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Live Blog: Ukraine Rallies Continue

Pro-government and antigovernment demonstrators are holding competing rallies in Kyiv today.

Massive Crowds Attend Opposition Rally In Kyiv
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Massive Crowds Attend Opposition Rally In Kyiv



-- For the third Sunday in a row, the opposition held a massive rally on Kyiv's Independence Square (the Maidan), which protesters have occupied since December 1. Some 200,000 people attended.

---- The government also organized an "anti-Maidan" rally for supporters of President Viktor Yanukovych and the current government. An estimated 15,000 people gathered -- many of them bused in from eastern regions.

-- EU Commissionar for Enlargement Stefan Fule has said negotiations with Ukraine have been put on hold. He said the Ukrainian government's arguments "have no grounds in reality." A spokesman for Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, however, said Ukraine would continue holding talks on the EU deal.

-- U.S. Senator John McCain spoke to protesters on Independence Square, promising "The free world is with you, America is with you, and I am with you."

-- Glenn Kates

11:42 15.12.2013
RIA Novosti reports that about 2,000 people have come out in support of Yanukovych in the Crimean city of Simferopol. Much support for Yanukovych comes from the industrial east and the largely ethnic-Russian region of Crimea. A good piece on the divide here.
11:54 15.12.2013
Yanukovych will fly to Moscow on Sunday for his fifth meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the last six weeks. The Ukrainian president has adamantly denied that he is working on a deal to join a Russian-led Customs Union that would preclude Ukraine from signing an EU Association Agreement. Opposition leaders, however, have warned that he is preparing to do just that.

Here's Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of the Batkvyschyna (Fatherland) party yesterday:

"Our Russian neighbors are trying to fulfill a scenario which should result in Ukraine becoming a member of the (Russian-led) Customs Union, without even signing a treaty about Ukraine's accession into the Customs Union, and the way to this scenario lies through bloodshed in Kyiv. And this blood is on the suit of the Ukrainian president."
11:56 15.12.2013
Perhaps the largest nighttime crowds came out yesterday, despite the bitter cold, just in time for McCain to snap this shot. Protesters shine lights with their mobile phones.

12:07 15.12.2013
Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Abruzov said Kyiv would "soon sign" an Association Agreement during a trip to Brussels on December 13. Some have questioned the sincerity of the statement, given the government's previous U-turn on the deal, and now it appears the EU is putting negotiations on hold.

Fule, the EU commissioner for enlargement, has signaled a willingness to deliver more aid if Kyiv agrees to a deal.
12:17 15.12.2013
12:49 15.12.2013
According to our Ukrainian Service, between 150,000 and 200,000 antigovernment protesters have gathered so far.
12:51 15.12.2013
McCain is expected to speak at 1:30 Kyiv time.
12:58 15.12.2013
Yevhenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, met with John McCain this morning, according to a release posted on Tymoshenko's official site. The two discussed possible sanctions against those "involved in the politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko," according to the statement.

13:40 15.12.2013
Our Ukrainian Service is carrying a live feed from the pro-government rally. Most demonstraters speak of a fear of "instability" that would come from pulling away from Russia. Almost everyone interviewed speaks in Russian.
14:01 15.12.2013
McCain speaking to crowd on Independence Square:

"The destiny you seek lies in Europe. Ukraine will make Europe better and Europe will make Ukraine better. To all Ukrainians, America stands with you."

"Thank you, USA," crowd chants.

McCain: "Thank you for your service in war and for your present mission in peace. Can I ask our Afghantsi [former fighters from war in Afghanistan] to raise their hand so I can salute them. Let me also say to the many young police officers here in the Maidan. We respect your service and patriotism and we ask that you always be guided by your duty to protect your fellow citizens. People of Ukraine, this is your moment. This is about you -- no one else. This is about the future you want for your country, this is about the future you deserve. A future in Europe. A future of peace and good relations with all of your neightbors.

"The free world is with you, America is with you, and I am with you."

"Thank you, Thank you," the crowd chants.

McCain: "May you forever be guided by the words of your great poet, Taras Shevchenko. 'Love your Ukraine, love her in cruel times, love her in tough moments, pray to God for her.' Thank you and God bless."

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